SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS AGAINST CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA - RIGHTS & WRONGS OF THE EPISODE.


ALLEGED SEXUAL HARRASSMENT BY CJI

WHAT HAPPENED ? On April 19 former junior Court Officer (complainant) sent affidavits to the judges of the Supreme Court accusing Justice Gogoi of sexual harassment. The complaint is specific, detailed and supported by documentary and other forms of evidence.


REACTION TO THE COMPLAINT :

1ST REACTION : Secretary General of the Supreme Court of India quickly discarding the complaint as one by “mischievous forces”.

2ND REACTION : The CJI himself constituted an extraordinary hearing in the Supreme Court, along with two other judges, on a non-working day in a case titled “Matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary”. The complainant, in her absence, was defamed and her motives questioned.

3RD REACTION : The constitution of an “in-house” panel comprising three judges of the Supreme Court.

PRESENCE OF BIAS : How can judges inquire into allegations against a colleague, no less the CJI, who is the ‘master of roster’ assigning cases to fellow judges? The so-called ‘In-House’ inquiry by three judges of the Supreme Court was in complete derogation of laws and norms on sexual harassment emanating from Vishakha and the POSH Act.

FINDING OF THE PANEL :

  • The finding of the panel that the allegations are baseless is the final blow in a process that has violated all principles of fairness, due process and impartiality.

  • The findings of the `In-House Committee’ seriously and grievously wounds one of the primary constructs of the rule of law, that justice should not only be done, `but seen to be done’.

  • The committee had not provided any justification for not supplying a copy of the report to the complainant, which is a basic tenet of natural justice

WAY FORWARD :

  • The Chief Justice of India is not above the law. The judges of the Supreme Court must not reduce the institution to a private club where certain interests are safeguarded at the cost of judicial integrity.

  • Demands made by the complainant, such as a lawyer for representation and a committee under the provisions of the sexual harassment law, are bare necessity. In fact, they are a least minimum to uphold the promise of equality before law in the Constitution.



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